20 MAY 1905, 1905年5月20日

A glance along the crowded booths on Spitalgasse tells the story. The shoppers walk hesitantly from one stall to the next, discovering what each shop sells. Here is tobacco, but where is mustard seed? Here are sugar beets, but where is cod? Here is goat’s milk, but where is sassafras? These are not tourists in Berne on their first visit. These are the citizens of Berne. Not a man can remember that two days back he bought chocolate at a shop named Ferdinand’s, at no. 17, or beef at the Hot delicatessen, at no. 36. Each shop and its specialty must be found anew. Many walk with maps, directing the map-holders from one arcade to the next in the city they have lived in all their lives, in the street they have traveled for years. Many walk with notebooks, to record what they have learned while it is briefly in their heads. For in this world, people have no memories.

When it is time to return home at the end of the day, each person consults his address book to learn where he lives. The butcher, who has made some unattractive cuts in his one day of butchery, discovers that his home is no. 29 Nageligasse. The stockbroker, whose short-term memory of the market has produced some excellent investments, reads that he now lives at no. 89 Bundesgasse. Arriving home, each man finds a woman and children waiting at the door, introduces himself, helps with the evening meal, reads stories to his children. Likewise, each woman returning from her job meets a husband, children, sofas, lamps, wallpaper, china patterns. Late at night, the wife and husband do not linger at the table to discuss the day’s activities, their children’s school, the bank account. Instead, they smile at one another, feel the warming blood, the ache between the legs as when they met the first time fifteen years ago. They find their bedroom, stumble past family photographs they do not recognize, and pass the night in lust. For it is only habit and memory that dulls the physical passion. Without memory, each night is the first night, each morning is the first morning, each kiss and touch are the first.

A world without memory is a world of the present. The past exists only in books, in documents. In order to know himself, each person carries his own Book of Life, which is filled with the history of his life. By reading its pages daily, he can relearn the identity of his parents, whether he was born high or born low, whether he did well or did poorly in school, whether he has accomplished anything in his life. Without his Book of Life, a person is a snapshot, a two-dimensional image, a ghost. In the leafy cafes on the Brunngasshalde, one hears anguished shrieking from a man who just read that he once killed another man. sighs from a woman who just discovered she was courted by a prince, sudden boasting from a woman who has learned that she received top honors from her university ten years prior. Some pass the twilight hours at their tables reading from their Books of Life; others frantically fill its extra pages with the day’s events.

With time, each person’s Book of Life thickens until it cannot be read in its entirety. Then comes a choice. Elderly men and women may read the early pages, to know themselves as youths; or they may read the end, to know themselves in later years.

Some have stopped reading altogether. They have abandoned the past. They have decided that it matters not if yesterday they were rich or poor, educated or ignorant, proud or humble, in love or empty-hearted ?o more than it matters how a soft wind gets into their hair. Such people look you directly in the eye and grip your hand firmly. Such people walk with the limber stride of their youth. Such people have learned how to live in a world without memory.

只消看看斯皮塔尔街上挤满的商亭。买东西的人从一个摊位寻寻觅觅到另一个摊位,瞧瞧每处都卖些什么。这儿卖烟草,可哪儿卖芥末?这儿卖甜菜,可哪儿卖鳕鱼?这儿卖羊奶,可哪儿卖黄樟?这些人都不是头会来伯尔尼的游客。他们是伯尔尼的居民。谁也记不起前天在这条街17号叫做 “费迪南”的店里买过巧克力,或在36号的“霍夫”美食屋买了牛肉的事情。各个铺子及其特色商品都是常逛常新。许多人带地图上街,并为另一些按图索骥的人指点迷津,从住了一辈子的城市的这条街前往走了多少年的那条道。许多人带着笔记本,记下头脑中稍纵即逝的见闻。在这个世界里,人没有记忆。

白天过完该回家了,于是人人都打开通讯录看家在何方。割肉割得无聊的屠夫发现自己住在拿格里街29号。因稍稍了解市场而做了出色投资的股票经纪人,发现他如今的住址是邮政街89号。到了家,每人都见有女人孩子等在门口。于是,报上姓名,帮着做晚餐,给孩子念故事。同样,每个女人下班回家,也要碰上个丈夫,还有孩子、沙发、灯、壁纸、瓷画什么的。到了夜里,夫妇俩并不耗在桌旁话说白天,什么孩子上学,银行账户之类。他们彼此,感到血是热的,两腿间有苦难言,就好像是十五年前初次见面。他们找到卧室一路跌撞进去,才不认得那些家庭老照片,一夜合欢。情欲因习惯和记忆而迟钝。没有记忆,夜夜都是初夜,日日都是首日,回回接吻,次次触摸都是空前。

没有记忆的世界是现在的世界,过去只存在于书本里。为了了解自己,人人都有本传记,上面记载着生平事迹。通过天天读,他反复了解到自己的父母是谁,自己出身高贵还是低贱,自己在学校表现如何,自己这辈子有什么成就。没有这个记录,人就仅仅是张照片,一个两维影象,一缕孤魂。在布仑嘎斯哈特街木叶婆娑的咖啡馆里,可以听到某男的哀鸣——他刚读到自己杀过人;某女的叹惋——她得知自己以前被王子追过;另一位的惊呼——十年前她在大学曾得过最佳学生奖。日暮时分,一些人坐在桌旁浏览自己的行状;另一些人则忙不迭地补入白天的事件。

每个人的传记随着时间增厚,厚到无法通读。于是便有所取舍。上了岁数的或许专读前面的篇章,重温自己的青青岁月;或许只翻结尾,了解一下近来的境况。

有些人干脆不读了。他们抛弃了过去,打定主意,昨天富也罢穷也罢,满腹学问也罢,目不识丁也罢,骄傲也罢,谦退也罢,有情也罢,无聊也罢,不去管它,只当微风吹了头发。这样的人会直视你的眼,紧握你的手。这样的人步履轻快,懂得怎样活在没有记忆的世界里。



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